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Discussion-- The Letters

Series/Special. Andrew and Stephen Schlesinger present a collection of letters from historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., their father. (Stereo)

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Bobby 5, Bobby Kennedy 5, John Kennedy 5, Obama 4, Kennedy 4, Buckley 4, Arthur Schlesinger 3, Tom Brokaw 3, John 3, Jack Kennedy 3, Stevenson 3, Washington 2, Jfk 2, Manhattan 2, Jackson 2, Bill Clinton 2, Joe Mccarthy 2, Kissinger 2, California 1, Germany 1,
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  CSPAN    Discussion-- The Letters    Series/Special. Andrew and Stephen Schlesinger present a  
   collection of letters from historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.,...  

    December 1, 2013
    10:00 - 11:01pm EST  

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wanted to do and spend some more time on my personal life. i got married a couple months ago. i was excited about that, too. >> here is the book. the president's devotional. and the fact the president on the front. >> thanks for having me. ..
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and. >> with a wide arms as a distinguished visiting professor. [applause] i think john has done well so i would say our political science students to accomplish this historical solar a uncelebrated author. his most recent book thomas jefferson rose to the coveted number one spot on the york times bestsellers list one of the best books of the year by the times book review and "washington post." the best-selling biography of andrew jackson earned a
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pulitzer prize says executive better it executive vice president of random house with a fascinating books with the influential reading less. with his expertise and engagement of the literary world to make it possible to bring exciting events to dash fill just like this book "the letters of arthur schlesinger, jr." just released a few days ago. i am proud to have jaundice by partner in this year's lecture series. tonight he has invited andrew and teeeighteen schlesinger did of their love to review over 35,000 letters written by their father the of the eight
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great arthur schlesinger, jr. to create this remarkable book. we're also welcoming tom brokaw back. [applause] he was honored when he delivered an inspiring talk to graduating seniors and we are thrilled to have him back on campus for this conversation. l i will turn things over to john and to say give for reading this conversation for these extraordinary event to share their sense of impersonal understanding of arthur schlesinger, jr.. figure. take you. [applause] >> i want to say quickly all
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of you who have taken the trouble to talk about the issues space at the wisdom and talent from when he signs alone. [laughter] -- the globe but moving on. now you have to do a sock up. [laughter] >> 53 autumns ago 1960 general election campaign committee said this. if by a liberal somebody who looks ahead and not behind or someone who cares about the welfare for their
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schools or jobs or civil rights or civil liberties or the stalemate of suspicion suspicion, if that is what they mean by a liberal that i am proud to say i am a liberal. ashes teeeighteen and andrew write in their introduction they helped to kraft the words of this is what i meant to arthur to be liberal. bell letter chronicles historians views through the second the iraq war. u.k. and read letters from the roosevelt, truman, adelaide stevenson, humphrey, a candidate, kissinger, a william f. buckley, jr., the clinton, al gore gorby doll, jacqueline kennedy and naturally with his interest
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of american history sammy davis, jr., a and mick jagger. [laughter] to a detractor to accused arthur of being a communist sympathizer he said your first letter was a product of misunderstanding for you to really provide if not i can only send you to the nearest psychiatrist. but i should note arthur had a keen appreciation for andrew jackson and jack daniel's. as is also appreciated arthur did not believe white wine was done to the day given the difficulties of the afternoon. he is the author of terror across and teeeighteen that co-editor of his father's struggle.
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his films won two emmys serving as the world director of the policy is to share am publisher of the journal of a speech writer and foreign policy adviser for'' well also the author of factive creation that received the harry s. truman book award. our friend tom brokaw will play a key role in this discussion in the future of liberalism. his career of one of the great american and light weight gretzky. [laughter] >> i can stand on skates but that is if. [laughter] >> he said he always skated to where the couple was going to be but tom brokaw had done that from
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generation to generation. he was as anchor and managing editor of "nbc nightly news." killed the man in the history of nbc to host the "today show" the night of the news did meet the press which is the york media circles that is the holy trinity. [laughter] the only american network acre in berlin at the collapse of sobol. it is not clear what happened. [laughter] he captured the sacrifices of the greatest generation quality that phrase it is generous and kind a and wise and a great man he played an invaluable role'' of all
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large swaths of american viewers. to be steady in times of crisis he just finished a landmark documentary of president kennedy and we are deeply grateful he is here. some now want to arthur. teeeighteen you can start. describing the major distinguishing issue to believe that affirmative government of general welfare. >> thises is absolutely true. this book is saved in the history of the liberal movement began to it reflects his commitment to the liberal ideals of activist government of public expenditures expenditures, civil-rights and diplomacy of the war.
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one of the profound saying is that my brother and i found going through these letters is his tenuous and demanding an idea that if we change american society for the better, we have to be building to fight for these ideals and we have good and breaks with his friends and complications because he kept his faith regardless of the time for the crisis he was facing. so that issue of activist government summarizes the notion of what it is all about. >> my brother cover that pretty well.
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[laughter] >> no cater and able problem [laughter] >> from some point of view the consistency and tenacity of his point of view. >> one day we had seen promoting the liberal agenda was from his work it totally defined his life. but every letter tries to influence the writer to make up '08 of our of the politicians but know if he would advise harry truman. my father wrote a book in
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said i did not want to write to you before the book came about because i did not want anybody to think there was influencing you. over this controversy. >> talk about the beginning was it genetic? >> yes. with the introduction my grandfather was a professor of american history in the cave from ohio and educated at ohio state. and graduated 1910 with a couple of sisters and my great-grandfather was german immigrants a and ohio state's 1926 even back then
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to be overwhelmed of the corporation's. and also one more thing, my father was part of that cycle of american history of the conservative serious locally every 30 years so he picked up the historical academic structures from my grandpa. >> they're all from the midwest so there was the therapy they brought to the east. debt was genetic civic given the current political climate but in the postwar years a strong conservative
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current of mccarthy of ohio. because they were witness there was the entirely different climate it did 15 seconds i will give a very remote part of south dakota that build a hydroelectric dam in the middle of nowhere at a store their expensive paid very good wages and change the lives of everybody who went through their. now coming back as doctors and engineers. of those courageous with the
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importance to get out and touch and feel what of those accounts that arthur gives it his accounts and was the side of the south. in the old lady it to be called to the egghead. he was a classic professor who said he was stunned. frankly that was very hopeful leader right cheek about liberalism and the civil-rights movement but then giggled later than his friend jfk.
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what is sad for the is says a historian we don't have people keeping journals sore right take letters that we love the british because of the betty voted down. [laughter] >> starting after the second world war many liberals who wanted to make clear it did not mean communism but eight social change live in the democratic process. why i wrote the book by to center how it is the
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centerpiece of his between the extremes of climate is some but that philosophy became fed if you read the letters of various democratic candidates started with adelaide stevenson and jfk and bill clinton and mondale they all turned to him as a liberal conscience to appeal to the liberal constituency. >> of hard headed a liberal is some -- liberalism but he
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did not make the transition to kennedy overnight. can you talk about that transition from libertyville to intelsat? >> to use the word hard-headed that is interesting. he adored stevenson did worked for him twice through two presidential elections as a speechwriter but at the same time he felt stevenson was passive on the issue of civil rights. as tom points out that he tried to urge stephen said to protect the black voting rights to the issue of desegregation with the supreme court decision although very much a liberal idealist could not take
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positions that would possibly upset his presidential ambitions. said the way he related to john kennedy he felt it incumbent on his role as political adviser. >> he called up to call kennedy. >> the other thing is very closely i think it is the first or reference to write about bobby after his death
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the editor of "the new york times" kennedy's letter was published february 3rd to deserved comments but not only with the agreements with the violation about why bobby kennedy was a good senator and why he was but always to make judgment. but to watch the landscape but this was the area us you know, well and probably
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more it was not afraid to pull his change. >> that brings up the point it it became very close to him and i used to visit my father at law school and we would go out to dinner and he and bobby would sit there and talks about the existential issues suffering so dramatically from the assassination of jack kennedy to talk about issues of do you believe in god. i remember vividly i remember to me that opened with my father not on the
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policy level but on a personal level. >> something to touch on he was also right tea film reviews. and it just does drop to have him give me a chapter and verse about the structure he was the forest, but not the bad way the spending the us numbers at the cape but had told in the wintertime but the letter that comes solid even when he pulls out the stiletto in a graceful way
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you always know where you stand a and we were talking earlier as happily as the man could he was in the stakeout is in manhattan. [laughter] the civility question is interesting in the earlier volumes that steve been edited he had lunch with kissinger and but to say quite different things of buckley. [laughter] but one thing.
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>> one of the it vintages of this book over a 50 year period. him in buckley used to have the vicious debates in the '50s and '60s of conservatism and then to turn into a friendship banned in the 1990's buckley wrote a novel all of joe mccarthy that was very positive and he sent my father a lecture that said william rise to a blurb for my novel? [laughter] but that he wrote the letter back you have not persuaded me i am sorry i cannot give
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you the blurb. [laughter] >> did he have qualms as a historian to make so many judgments? but then there is whole new way of thinking for example, in fact, he played a much more in place control about trying to deal with the new soviet leadership it was a daring enterprise. but. >> what is interesting about my father is he had big
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skepticism for eisenhower but as a historian as a professional he could put aside his prejudices' or perceptions wouldn't of letters he writes for the average issa said the graduate students and people with degrees to treat with the same amount of respect and he says i do not believe that politics should interfere with friendships and as a matter of fact because he took that position he could maintain a relationship over president
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bush who had friendships with the family. or friends with the cia and reid taint shirt -- relationships but he came to appreciate when president reagan dyed the matter how rich we disagreed the nature of the presidential office but the power of the presidency of the imperial presidency book by early on
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white kennedy or jackson and should be the center of national action. that he figure to urge bill clinton or al gore in the 20th century to lay out vigorous programs and to follow them up with presidential education. to explain babe's what you think he would make if. >> i would take talk about the first four years obama has stated this presidential role that my father has said to make a great president.
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he has not use the power of the presidency or the executive office to get around to but the congress to be against everything he stands for but. >> i may differ but if you look at his first term he passed the health care act that is having a tremendous impact on american society and then if we could solve the problems with the web site will be what he will be remembered for. :did johnson isn't he could have if he dismissed it and to focus on the job
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situation with the french industry. but then he did take advantage of that. just like and 1965 when he could pass this legislation for medicare and civil-rights. to get into the second term the house's children's republicans they cannot do very much. >> we probably have a slightly different take but what do you take is his assessment of the preparation obviously obamacare two office with the world collapsing around have.
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but president bush 43 said hank paulson of a bike to help you but i would do more harm than good but what frustrates people that are of of the supporters is there doesn't seem to be if the idea of powell of where he wants to go or how he gets there we go double down he has a staff meeting before i want to go back to my agenda of climate change to the immigration and they are in this light the state of for because they know those are not the issues. somehow we prepare people that obama is somebody to look at as a model.
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>> that is an interesting point because after all roosevelt was governor of your. so learning how to run a big organization or a state but then you look at senator kennedy he had no background of a big operation but he also comes in with little preparation but tickled by this incredible storm he has got this out of the worst recession since the great depression of that alone is quite an accomplishment. i agreed the second jervis i made at best that could never coveted to be but at
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the very least to live of legacy for future presidents to look back that obamacare not completed their but we could do with the future. >> and then to'' henry adams the president of united states like the commander of the ship at sea. with a sense of mission. but where would you put obama on that scale? >> guy will seek refuge to
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say it is too early to tell. [laughter] but what i take i have said a student of the political process of the last 50 years i have been inside dedicate a lot by one overarching conclusion is a day after they had been sworn in and. so if there's such a joy in washington the country was divided that day said mcconnell would deny him a second term there was a discussion baby on the "today show" how will he go when he is president? somebody said he will know what the butler says mr. president your coffee
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and your breakfast is ready and the secret service shows up at the door and i said he would now with the for the intelligence report is put on his desk have the of magnitude of the office and the responsibility he has to keep every american safe. i don't take anybody is prepared for that quite honestly. of thursday and jfk -- jfk and bay of pigs and there were still struggling with the documentary what is clear to me in and it is still a work in progress. we don't know the of long-haul obviously more comfortable of the cuban missile crisis it was good
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to have more self-confidence but before then so in the obama case to look in their rearview mirror. for the presidential power is fascinating and to answer that with uncertainty. >> with this idea of education what to retake the journalistic and historic for those to right to use to think about these things try to educate the public how the politicians need time to be educated? it is not tribulation of.
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so credit the source. but yet but yet arthur writing about jackson roosevelt related to dan quayle of his time running for not a good time. [laughter] fdr learned kennedy from the moment of the bay of pigs reaching out to the eisenhower not the warmest of transitions between the two but yet that wonderful pulitzer prize-winning picture of the bet what gate at kids david after the bay of pigs where kennedy has called the old guy and said helped a. and he was learning. what did he do? he did not have the beating so he had a third meeting
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october 1862. arthur understood but to be in the white house that as always narrative's these sayings do take time. flesh and blood. >> also the best advice he was getting because they have lovelock reach of the can-do to do with it the next day. kennedy is the student of that and but with this audience one thing in particular but they can't door of his advice i interviewed have the day he made the announcement
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june 9899. this was arthur but why he had such fellatio it is essential the presidential candidates feel culpable and at ease with himself what he says and does. no amount of polishing to make people different from what they are. they will go out of character. i am not sure those attempts to humanize all corps has always worked. [laughter] five would-be careful how you are reserved a reticent man i would judge you should be what you are. can you imagine a fdr's begin public or private about the way polio j.j. is life? >> guest: and their hearts that was about as good a piece of the device as al gore could have gotten. that is a first of my had see that. that was the value.
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>> you could take that value for their to discuss his choice of the vice-presidential where she makes it clear he felt this man joseph lieberman was a rather smugly and pious fundamentally not the kind of choice we should look to. at the same time praising al gore but he had to put added to make clear with everything al gore was doing >> of the politicians we have mentioned the what changed the most of the trajectory after it ended so
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tragically in los angeles his relationship with him and began the body that was the enforcer or much more conservative. then by 18682crfk as a great hope of fulfilling the promise of the new deal what was that germany like? >> the fascination of jack kennedy with such a profound experience from bobby kennedy that even as he has become quite liberal under various times with the but brothers administration almost like the way fdr
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changed after polio and about the issue of blacks or whites and a panoply of civil rights issues but it made them regrettably full verbal and he became an iconic figure of american politics in a populous of society that people saw it could breed together the establishment of the poverty-stricken and population to create a society that would work together to solve these problems but it is a fascination. >> did your father ever talk
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to about the conspiracy theories after the assassination? after reading this and having been so deeply involved is that that's to take out castro. and to your dad in the deere times id other places at the end he said he was wrong on that. >> yes. he said kennedy but to sever ties the key bid economy but with the confusion that has occurred but certainly where
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bobby did agree in the end they were going too far. >> don't forget before kennedy assassination as site jordan rapprochements but you could elaborate but it as part of kennedy is he would make an arrangement with castro. >> he did at that point and that comes with it. >> i would like to talk about this relationship of the difference between john kennedy and bobby kennedy. in the event he felt he was more close to bobby kennedy
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and jack kennedy. he was tough to get close to but he said john kennedy was a realist. robert kennedy at the heart of bobby kennedy he felt the problems of the issues of the country. john kennedy figured out if his mind. >> don't you seek bobby was much more because of what he had dead throat? like the assassination? >> john kennedy had the katy one '09 experience. >> but i take his life to take koldewey remember watching bobby and i was on the trail and the fall of
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the politicians know one changed as much as he did in my judgment. in the end he could still we the tough guy with all of those out to orange county as the shot across the bout but my guess is he probably would have at that point. >> to say this 1,000 times is i believe in the ufo theory. the unforeseen will occur. [laughter] >> there is a live spirit of shakespeare. >> that would have been fascinating. >> i am trying a new
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technique of pierre it is acre bird. [laughter] i have the book, and i had. then i went through the book and i wrote down the faces that were of interest to me to type of the page that i could call up the things i want to talk to. it is fine as long as a drinker has the right temperature. [laughter] >> what we have talked about to keep your mind sharp which kennedy we talk about with the new frontier of great society and camelot the golden age of the timber credit party have the liberalism of. to look back of undisguised
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intelligence for getting said democratic party was deeply fractured largely because people in this region and farther south was a segregationist weighing of the upper democratic party. to begin with the roosevelt and stevens more rapid action in and the kennedys representative more realistic and. >> so talk about that. as will rogers i did not
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belong to organized party i have a democrat. >> it is interesting even before kennedy got the nomination my father is concerned he might not get the vote because of that time he was not conservative but centrist and he was concerned he never took a position of joe mccarthy. because he is in the hospital. >> let's profile more according to roosevelt. >> in he is concerned is the
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issue of birth control to have consider the catholic vote. so even before the nomination of this man of whom he was supposed to be but john is right to. he was stymied he could not pass any legislation that what have been part of his agenda. but all the issues like medicare in the civil-rights act in the voting act legislation came into being. kennedy tried the best he could to adjust to those realities but he was limited but he could accomplish a and it was very discouraging
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from those liberals. >> but then he was gone. >> that many of you were not around 50 years ago but that is a commentary how well is that you book but raise your hand if you were not there then. >> aias editor how old they and itt he said 12. [laughter] the age has got more. but to do this documentary for me to find that intersection of those who
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remember in those who have only the iconic images left with the young people to look at the first or second screening so we could see their reaction and what more they wanted or needed to know about him. there was a lot. they knew she was glamorous glamorous, and the tragedy in the family they are young people but it is ancient history and a long time ago. it was a different time. >> 1% a college today, the kennedy administration is the equivalent of the kennedy and registration from the first world war. it is the extraordinary number of decades you can see how that is the thought of the past.
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>> but the proximity of the history but this lush gingers lived in a townhouse in manhattan. one day they found out the town house behind them was on the market and a man from california had bought it his name was richard nixon. [laughter] so one morning arthur gets up to look out the kitchen window he sees nixon in the business suit getting at the paper. he goes off for the day to do a book party that night. the first person he sees is alger hiss to all our throat the peculiarity of america in history.
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[laughter] i try to find a particular letter the pressure. the call of duty was dan rather. [laughter] wendy is toecap liberalism of right now. every possible view. it is very retro. >> the word is now becoming available. look at the york we could have a meeting like this to mention the word liberal dishearten --. >> you have not said what will be on the up log up to
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refinish this session. [laughter] >> that obama let did do something with the affordable care act of light as tried to do since theodore roosevelt with presidents of both parties. and the idea henhawk -- but it is not a moment where the natural american and anxiety which is older than the republican to tamp down and me reassured by the center-left era. tuesday of this historically through your own work?
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over the next couple of years of. >> own father was a great proponent of activist government. what they have done is to disprove the theory to see those programs of might have worked had obama the bad able to see the majority. why rely on government? it does not work. it is a very perverse it does give people a sense that it seems distant and confused one of the reasons why the health care act is not working of the web site
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because 25 states are controlled by republicans and refused to set up the portals that would have been working at the state level instead of the federal level so every effort to assure the activist government is blocked what might or the other. to feed it to the cynicism. >> but with the fdr spirit of experimentation. >>. >> but to go through the cycles of conservative thinking and the world has changed so profoundly to the process with responding by a keystroke with the fact we have lost the character of
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our political process and we don't stop and take her on dash a and c eddie more. as the members of the tea party. although it costs the economy to do $5 billion. they say they make the numbers up. but wait a moment they are moving on. that does have an effect if you take the ordinary citizen to decide what is in the best interest to have a hard time making gave decision. befriended and montana does
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a great job three times a week she is going to say you will not believe what i read this morning and i said i do not believe what you will read the. [laughter] >> we talked before to give you the personal nature not only as a famous historian to have to bertie's that people would die in those days with of marty. [laughter] but to have to have the dustup with his friend buckley with his personal character of who he was and how he cared about people and he was always the best
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companion. november 22, 1963, with the date of in the evening terrorist jackie nothing i can say to mitigate the horror of this day. your husband was an aspiring member of my generation he collided destiny and help. he had a passionate gaiety to know him and work with him and for him was the most of filling experience of ever could have imagined. the love and grief of the nation should give you the feeling the terrible vacancy we fell. rescinding our profoundest love and sympathy i know you'll love me know when i can do anything to help. arthur. . .